Watch out for those pills

I had a great weekend in Pennsylvania with my parents and my grandfather. I’ve written a bit about his health from time to time on the blog: the stroke, his struggles with diabetes. When I saw him last summer he was withdrawn and uncommunicative, and had trouble moving, though he did respond when I talked with him a little, and I came away very worried about him.

The good news is that he has made tremendous improvements since then. He had a brief hospital stay earlier this winter after falling (fortunately, nothing was broken) and in the course of his rehabilitation went through a thorough evaluation of his medications. The doctors took him off all but one or two of what had been probably ten or twelve different prescriptions. The difference has been astonishing. He was much more mobile, told some stories, laughed a bit, had far fewer tremors…

The consensus about his improvement is that his previous doctors were prescribing medications to treat symptoms and never evaluating the cumulative effect of the medicine on him—and in some cases never taking a step back to see if the medications were still needed. It seems shocking that such a thing could happen, but I suspect it’s all too common.